Severe Weather Awareness Week - Topic: Lightning

By: Meteorologist Mark Henderson Email
By: Meteorologist Mark Henderson Email

Severe Weather Preparedness Week continues with a discussion about Lightning and Lightning Safety. Lightning is perhaps the most frequent and important threat posed to us during thunderstorms. Lightning doesn't only occur during severe thunderstorms, but garden variety thunderstorms produce lightning just as frequently.

As in the case of any severe weather threat, it's important to be prepared by planning ahead, and doing our best to avoid potentially dangerous situations that lightning can pose. During the spring, summer, and fall months, when outdoor activities are in your plans, the first step in preparing is to simply check out the forecast. You can do so here at, on the air on 23 WIFR, and on our 23 Storm Team WeatherNow, a 24 hour local weather channel available on Comcast Cable, and at

If you spot a storm, and see lightning, the most obvious safety tip is to seek shelter indoors immediately!

If caught outside during a thunderstorm, here are some important tips to follow. We've heard from a young age that lightning most often strikes the tallest object. Avoid trees and power lines, and stay away from open areas where you may very well become the tallest object.

According to the National Weather Service, it's safe to assume that a closed, hard top metal vehicle offers effective protection in a thunderstorm. But on the other hand, open structures such as picnic shelters are NOT effective means of protection from lightning.

STAY AWAY FROM WATER! If you're swimming or boating, If boating or swimming, get out of the water when storms are spotted, and locate and seek shelter in an indoor venue.

Use of electrical appliances, corded telephones, and metal plumbing is strongly discouraged during thunderstorms! But according to the NWS, it is okay to use cellular phones or cordless phones.


How do you determine how far a lightning flash is away from you? The National Weather Service encourages using the flash to bang method. Here's how it works.

Look for lightning.
Once you see a flash, count the seconds until you hear thunder.
Take that number, divide by five.
The result is your distance in miles from the lightning flash.

Example: 15 seconds between lightning and thunder. 15 divided by 5= 3 miles.

Experts suggest using the 30-30 rule to determine when it's safe to suspend and resume outdoor activities.

The 30-30 rule says if thunder occurs within 30 seconds of the lightning, it is close enough to be dangerous. Stop outdoor activity and get inside. Then stay indoors until 30 minutes after the storm has ended.

Lightning safety awareness week runs June 22-28. More information is to come then. In the meantime, more lightning information can be found at


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